German Thoroughness in Turf Research, Daily Racing Form, 1922-10-10


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GERMAN THOROUGHNESS IN TURF RESEARCH i -- BY SALTVATOR. i Taking the newly published "Successful -Female 1 Lines in the Breeding of the Thor- oughbrcd Horse" as the point of departure, a recent article contributed by G. C. Gue to the New York Sunday Herald passes in 1 review the various works similar to that upon which Frederick Becker has expended so much time, pains and intelligence, and j propounds the question: Why is it that almost all the valuable -and important books on the genealogy of 1 the thoroughbred are the work of German 1 writers? And he goes on to say: 1 "While German horsemen have been compiling and writing all these important works : concerning the thoroughbred, it is difficult : to recall a single volume of similar character that has come from a British or : American author during the same period." i This opens up an interesting question, i but the answer is not at all difficult. In the first place, works of the character referred to i. c, those by Frentzel, Goos, Von Oettingen, Becker, etc., require long and laborious research and the most painstaking and meticulous accuracy. In these attributes the Teuton has no rivals in the modern world. In all branches of learning, all sciences, arts and professions which require a great "literary laboratory," the Germans stand first, the rest of the world nowhere. DEVOID OF LITERARY ABILITY. If anybody disbelieves this he has only to start investigating on his own account and he will speedily discover the truth. He cannot go far in any direction without being constantly referred to Teutonic tomes in which all the facts that have been ascertained upon his subject have, been exhaustively and exhaustingly collected and set forth. The manner of their setting forth is as a rule so intricate, difficult and, especially, so devoid of any fine literary craftsmanship that mastery of their contents is only to be achieved by the hardest kind of work, the most intense and unremitting application. It is absolutely necessary to any student who aspires to go deeply into anything to have a reading mastery of the German language. For the great majority of these works have never been translated into English or any other modern tongue and the only way to become familiar with their contents is to study the originals. This is the reason why, prior to the world war, the great German universities were crowded with students from all parts of the world. They were there because they were after something that could not be obtained anywhere else. This fact was universally conceded. And even the world war, and world-hatred for Germany and German methods which it aroused, has had little power to change it The far-famed "German mind." of which we have heard so much since 1914, is not bo creative as it is collective and upbuilding. In the making of vast assemblages of facts, accumulations of detail and immense storehouses of information upon every subject under the sun, moon or stars the German has no rival. His temperament specially fits him for such work. STATE RIAL REWARDS ARE SLIGHT. Many German savants, research specialists and expert investigators, after first thoroughly training themselves for the tasks before them, dedicate their lives thereto. Hosts of them have thought nothing of so doing, despite the knowledge that their material rewards would be at best entirely unworthy of the amount of effort expended. So great was their devotion to their Avork, so disinterested their attitude toward it, that they were content almost literally to "have their labor for their pains," realizing to the full the words of the poet Longfellow: "The reward is in the doing. And the pleasure of pursuing Is the prize the vanquished gain." These tireless and single-minded workers may have been "vanquished" in so far as i winning any large recompense for their endeavors, in either fame or pelf, but they have had the satisfaction, a most honorable and unbuyable one, of having added something to the worlds store of learning; or, at least, so assembled and codified some portion of it as to make many facts and truths for the first time generally accessible. , Now, the temperament of the German scientific research worker is one foreign to ; either the British or the American mind. The American, who honors patience in the s breach rather than the observance, is always looking for short cuts to wisdom. The Briton, who as a rule considers his i own wisdom amply sufficient for all practical I purposes and, as we all know, he is nothing : if not practical is serenely self-confident that in his own superior way he can "muddle through" and beat the world. Therefore it is not at all surprising that i It is to German experts we owe the most t exhaustive and informing works upon the ; breeding of the thoroughbred horse ever produced in comparison with which the best that Britain and America have to show are s the mere scribblings and scrap-books of more i or less inspired amateurs. Just as a case i in point, take the far-famed "Figure System" - of Bruce Lowe. Lowe spent double the number of years that any systematic, , methodical and well-trained statistician i would have needed to build up his system, , especially in view of the fact that the tables 3 of the German, Goos, already provided him l with a wealth of data, carefully verified, for r Ids purpose. LOWES JOTTINGS AND NOTATIONS. But when death at length overtook him, , Lowe left, instead of a "perfect whole," nothing - but a mass of jottings and notations, which he had made no real effort to properly r siftand assemble into a coherent and symmetric - whole. The task of doing this was 3 given .over to a noted British turf journalist, , who made a book out of Lowes mass or r should one say mess? of memorabilia; but t it was veritably a "thing of shreds, and i patches," replete with errors of omission i and commission and so unsatisfactory that t the editor felt obliged to whitewash himself f in his preface. The milk in the Lowo cocoanui at first i 1 1 j 1 1 1 : : : i i i , ; s i I : i t ; s i i - , i , 3 l r , - r - 3 , r t i i t f proved not particularly palatable to the British public, for which it was intended. But shortly the immense commercial possi- y bilities of the "Figure System" began to , dawn upon those who would profit from its exploitation. This was enough. The , original Lowe book was revamped, some of . the original errors corrected, and it was , reissued under a new name and in a form that, as I have previously remarked in Daily Racing Form, made it. really nothing but a trade circular. And it remains to this day the "magnum opus" of Britain in so far as , the technical literature of the thoroughbred breed is concerned. It scarce needs to be said, furthermore, that the American horseman, always looking for the "short cut," also equally willing to "let George do it," did nothing but acquire a smattering of what the Britons and the Germans had done. He made no effort to do anything on his own account having, apparently, the idea that he could grow wise by proxy and without troubling himself in the process. The only statistical storehouses that the American turf can show are the annual "American Racing Manuals" published by Daily Racing Form, and these are not addressed, except in a subsidiary way, to the breeders; being intended for the racegoer and making no attempt it would be outside their sphere to go deeply into any department of breeding lore. We cannot feel proud of the fact that we have absolutely nothing to show for ourselves, on that side of the ledger, but the "Thoroughbred Stallion Register," published at Lexington in 1921, which is really an "advertising mediuh" and is, moreover, an out-and-out imitation of a British model. The "Thoroughbred Stallion Register" is but an assemblage of pedigrees of stallions in service in America for 1921, of which the most important are tabulated, with descriptive data, and the rest given in very abbreviated form. Appended to these is a rehash of the "Figure System," which, as is now well demonstrated, means nothing to the American breeder or to any other anywhere with any capacity for independent thought. It presents nothing else for the breeders guidance or information. The last work that attempted to do this was the volume entitled "The Thoroughbred Horse," published by the late Colonel S. D. Bruce, the original compiler of our official "American Stud Book." This dates back to 1892. It was really a reissue, amplified and brought up to date, of Colonel Braces "Horse Breeders Guide and Handbook," first brought out in 1883, and this, like the present "Thoroughbred Stallion Register," was nothing but an imitation of a British prototype the "Horse Breeders Handbook," by Joseph Osborne, which first appeared in London in 1881. BRUCES INCOMPLETE TABULATION. Colonel Bruces work consisted of the tabulated pedigrees of about a hundred stallions then 1892 forty years ago in service in the United States, and was in reality an advertisement of these horses. The omission of a number of the most prominent ones of that day is explained by the fact that their owners did not, in slang parlance, "come across." But Colonel Bruce, in imitation of Mr. Osborne, amplified his book, to take off the advertising curse, by a lengthy and unreadable discourse upon the breeding of the thoroughbred, which covered over one hundred large pages of closely printed type. Colonel Bruce had no ability whatever as a writer. He possessed large stores of information upon his subject, the accumulations of a lifetime, but the ability to present them with either coherence or interest he emphatically did not possess. He was capable of inditing paragraphs three pages in length, of sentences hundreds of words long, and of endless repetitions of names and dates which left the famous "Catalogue of ships" in Homers "Iliad" far behind the distance flag, while the involutions and complexities of his literary style were such as to extort from the reader loud cries for help. But if the American reader wants to find out anything about American stallions, past or present, it is to this work, and the one above described, that he must go, or no-: where. That is unless he has the patience to wade through mountains of musty peri-, odicals, to which, moreover, access is diffi-i cult Col. T. B. Merrys "The American Thoroughbred" of 1905 is just a journalists scrap book. AMERICA LEFT OUT BY BECKER. Concerning Mr. Beckers new "Successful Female Lines In the Breeding of the Thor- oughbred Horse," several American critics have expressed their regret that while it comprehends, or presumes, the pedigrees or the stake winners of half a dozen different countries, America is not included. This cer-: tainly leaves the compilation, monumental though it be, decidedly lop-sided from the Occidental point of view. The first impulse is to wonder why Amer- ica was left out. In answer to this It may be stated that I have Mr. Beckers own word for it he would have liked to in-t elude America, but when he made a move in that direction he failed to receive a particle of encouragement from here. As nobody in this glorious Land of the Free, to all intents and purposes; took any in-5 terest in his work, why, in the words of the prophet should he worry? Yet Mr. Becker has for years taken a deep interest in American pedigrees and written much, for both foreign and American turf journals, about American horses and their blood lines, Another thing. In hi3 researches into American thoroughbred genealogies, Mr. Becker has informed me, he had reason to learn that the two parent volumes, I. and II., of the "American Stud Book," are so disfigured with errors, so replete with im-, possible extensions of old-time pedigrees, that they would have to be thoroughly over- hauled in order to establish a foundation that would hold water and be worth building upon. The task which this revision would present was one immense and tedious, but Mr. Becker was willing to undertake it However, ho met here with the same impasse that elsewhere confronted him. Nobody in America could be in any way interested in such a work. Without American co-opra- tion it was, of course, impossible. He tliere-t foro washed his hands of America and left her among the "also rans." For years past I have been stressing the same opinion Mr. Becker has expressed to me namely, that the first duty of the serious American breeder is to see that the two "parent volumes" of our stud book are thoroughly revised and all false and impossible genealogies removed from them. It is estimated that something like twenty per cent of the pedigrees which appeared in the first edition of the "English Stud Book" have either been dropped entirely or else revised and corrected, in the present edition of that works. Yet our own stud book is still circulated in all its pristine incorrectness, and breeders of today cite its absurdities and impossibilities as sober fact There is, of course, a reason for this, as for everything. American breeders are still in a "state of mind" over the ban placed upon horses with a native "stain" by the "English Stud Book" a dozen years ago. They cling, therefore, with desperation to these old and false, many of them deliberately forged and fabricated, early American extensions because thereby they can trace their "tap roots" back to some "figure family" of orthodox British blood. The wethers having already been butchered to make a British holiday, are the ewe lambs, a host of them, to be added to the hecatomb? It is an awful moment for , the American breeder, and, being human, he resolves to hold on to his bogus pedigrees as, for instance, that of the famous "Duchess family," which Colonel Bruce so triumphantly shook from his sleeve and laid upon the table, although all the trump cards belonged to another pack, could their backs but be seen. To quote the Bard, they are i "poor things, sir, but his own."

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